The sun shines in El Paso approximately 302 days per year, earning it the nickname “Sun City” and making it a veritable mecca for year-round outside adventures — especially given the city’s Chihuahuan Desert setting and proximity to state and national parks.
Check out these three destinations for hiking, mountain biking, camping, stargazing, rock climbing, and just generally embracing the stunning natural landscape.
Pro tip: With all that sun, you should know El Paso also has some of the finest regional vineyards. Grab a glass of well-deserved Texas vino at a local winery after a day of enjoying the great outdoors.
Franklin Mountains State Park
Towering above the city of El Paso is the largest state park in an urban setting, at the westernmost point in Texas. Though only minutes from downtown, at Franklin Mountains State Park you can hike rugged terrain in 37 square miles of desert wilderness, scrub vegetation, and open space, with 125 miles of multi-use trails that are especially popular with mountain bikers.
For one of the best 360-degree views of El Paso, New Mexico, and the Mexico border, hike North Franklin Peak Trail, accessed from Mundy’s Gap Trail. It journeys along the mountain’s eastern slope, twisting and turning over red volcanic rocks along the way. But hiker beware: it’s 2,000 feet of elevation gain from the trailhead to the top, making it a nearly 13-mile trek out and back.
You can also camp overnight in the park at one of the 14 tent sites in the Tom Mays Unit.
Guadalupe Mountains National Park
The honor for the highest point in Texas belongs to the Guadalupe Mountains National Park in the Chihuahuan Desert, which is located less than two hours from El Paso. Considered a geological phenomenon, the magnificent peaks are nothing short of breathtaking for hiking and boast some of the best views in the Southwest.
In addition to its more than 80 miles of trail through a wide variety of desert, wooded, forested, and riverside landscapes, the park is also the world’s most premier example of an exposed fossil reef and one of the most pristine wilderness areas in the region.
If you dare, climb to the top of Guadalupe Peak, which stands tall at 8,749 feet. With its zigzagging maze of steep switchbacks and rugged terrain, the trail has often been described as a “hiker’s dream.”
Hueco Tanks State Park & Historic Site
World-renowned for rock climbing and bouldering, the 860-acre Hueco Tanks State Park & Historic Site is named for its large natural rock basins (huecos) that once supplied rainwater to ancient dwellers.
Located about 40 miles outside of El Paso, the area is also known for its many American Indian rock pictographs that date back thousands of years — and you can get in on a guided tour to explore the intriguing imagery.
You can also hop on a hiking trail, go birding, or swing by the interpretive center in a historic ranch house to learn about the park and its history.
Discover more about El Paso's great outdoors — and great indoors — here.